Pakistan, America to discuss free trade, market access for textile products.
FAISALABAD: The US is committed to establishing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Pakistan and in this connection a high-level delegation of trade representatives will visit Islamabad next week to hold talks on a free trade agreement and market access to promote bilateral trade and economic ties.
US Embassy’s Economic Officer Jimmy Mauldin said this while talking to textile exporters at the offices of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) on Tuesday.
He said there were a lot of opportunities especially in textile products.
Mauldin said the US appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror and expressed the hope that the US would not only compensate but also provide economic support for the losses suffered in the campaign.
Responding to a query, Mauldin said the US did not consider Pakistan as a problem country but an honourable friend with a lot of opportunities. “The US understands that Pakistan has suffered a lot and the world community must give it a helping hand to help it overcome economic problems,” he said.
US Consulate General Lahore Economic Officer Robert Hawkins said the main objective of Washington’s presence here was to know the challenges in promotion of textile exports to the US and how would we overcome these challenges.
Earlier, PTEA Chairman Waseem Lateef said Pakistan and the US had been enjoying close and friendly relationship in all fields and Washington was a major trade partner of Pakistan. “The share of exports to the US is 20 per cent of our total exports,” he said.
He said export of home textiles to the US stood around $1.6 billion in 2005-06, but over the last five years it declined to $1.39 billion because of various challenges to trade. Elaborating, he said the major hurdle was high customs duty of more than 10 per cent on Pakistani textiles in the US.
“Our exporters have not been able to compete in the face of zero per cent duty for Bangladesh and less than 10 per cent tariff for Sri Lanka and India,” he said.
Delay in clearance due to extraordinary examination of Pakistan’s consignments at US ports is another challenge to the textile exporters. “It is unfortunate that the devoted contribution of Pakistan (to the war on terror) has not led to increased economic cooperation,” he said.
“Economic growth and stability are real weapons to fight poverty,” he said, adding Pakistani textiles should be offered zero tariffs to assist the economy sustain the huge cost of the war on terror.
He said free market access for exports provided an opportunity to strengthen the economic base to face daunting challenges.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2011.